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Preparing Your Workplace for BYOD Adoption

  
  
  

byod resized 600Technology and business are constantly evolving together; as is the case with the current trend of BYOD (bring your own device) adoption into the workplace.

If you are at the early stages of considering how this trend fits your business, it is beneficial to first understand how to best position yourself to be able to offer your employees the option to incorporate their tablet, cell phone, or laptop safely and productively into your company.

Let's start by considering why companies are participating in BYOD in the work environment.

At first glance, one might think that corporate owned devices would be preferable to the employee, but look again, it is a fact now in many companies that flexible IT policies which incorporate BYOD are considered to be a perk by many job seekers as well as good for staff retention.

Three elements are driving the BYOD trend:

  • Cost - The results of studies are mixed, however, analysis seems to be pointing toward savings for the company and increased expenses (willingly absorbed) for the employee

  • Mobility/Productivity - Allowing workers to work from anywhere, studies show that workers are generally happier and more productive working in a company that embraces BYOD policy. Studies show significant productivity gains

  • Culture - A BYOD policy has the appeal of positioning your company as a place for forward thinkers, innovators and tech savvy personnel.

Here are some considerations for incorporating a strategic BYOD policy into your company.

(This is not intended to be a complete list of items to consider when thinking about incorporating a BYOD policy.)

What are the applications/software that you use?

Not all devices are compatible with all applications – consider your line of business applications. (This is more for laptops and tablets, mobile devices are normally used for email). Determine whether or not your mission critical applications are available on multiple platforms.

How well-versed is your IT staff with all the different device types and interfaces?

When you as a company supply the device you can standardize the type of device that the person is using making it easier on the IT Staff. Introducing multiple devices, operating systems, and interfaces can be daunting to a small or less experienced IT department who may not have experience or feel confident supporting multiple platforms.  In this case, engaging with a good managed services provider may provide the support you need for successfully adopting BYOD.

What is the cost to benefit ratio?

One of the primary benefits to having a BYOD policy is that employees generally become more productive due to the fact that they have access to the device all of the time. (One centralized device for personal and work activities)

Because the employee directly purchases their device, the company benefits from a reduced expense. Typically, the employee is willing to do this in order to have their preferred device and their implementation/data plan costs absorbed by the company. Consider whether you are you going to reimburse the employee for using their device (cell phone) for work or provide a company-wide data plan.

Asset Management

Employees must understand that if their device is lost or stolen it will need to be wiped clean of all company data, which typically cannot be separated from personal data. 

Users should assume the repsonsibility of backing up personal data and agree in advance to policies in cases of theft or loss of devices.

Companies should consider their policy regarding reimbursement or assistance in replacing a lost device.

Security

AV Malware is an important feature that must be installed on the device.

Consideration must be given to finding a balance of securing the device without inhibiting work related activities and putting the company at risk.

In Conclusion:

The fact is BYOD is a strong trend in the industry. Many people today are working remotely from home at some time or in some fashion, which means that they are using their personal computer to work and access the company network.

Based on a study done by Gartner in 2012, 90% of companies are deploying some sort of mobile device and 37% of the devices are BYOD.  

From a cultural standpoint, is it more work to support multiple devices and allow BYOD?  Possibly, but what’s best for the employees?  What will help them do their job better?  What will enable them to be the most productive?  Many companies are finding that the result of having BYOD culture means more sales, billable hours, and overall productivity for their company. 

Clearly, there are many items to look at and consider with this trend.  Watch for the next article in our BYOD series which will delve more deeply into BYOD Security. 

If you are interested in incorporating a BYOD policy into your company, engaging with a professional IT company, such as Know Technology, will help you in creating and managing your mobile strategy.

Is the Cloud Ready for You?

  
  
  

cloud on cloudIn recent months I have found myself talking to many companies in Maine who are trying to figure out if they should move parts of their business to the cloud, and if so, just what aspects make the most sense and what the timing should be for this move. I proceed to explain three key areas for consideration.

I typically find that they, probably much like you, already utilize some cloud services (Quickbooks, Hotmail, online banking, etc.) and yet moving their Line of Business or collaboration to the cloud may seem intimidating. Hopefully, my three pronged approach to this conversation helps them and will also help you to minimize the confusion.

At the outset, let's arrive at a suitable definition of cloud computing, at least for this article.  Because it can take on many forms and provide a wide range of services, I’m using the broadest definition possible for this discussion. 

The practice of using a network of servers hosted on the internet to store, process and manage data and server workloads, rather than using local servers to accomplish these tasks. 

Now let's look at the three important considerations that when taken together help shed light on the situation and steer the planning process.

1. Factors driving you to the cloud -

The way we do business is changing and the population of clients that I work with run the gamut in size, industry and location.  But in addition to being in New England and in that 50-500 user space, there are some similar things driving them towards cloud solutions:

  • Aging server infrastructure –  A lot of servers were replaced 3-4 years ago…that means they’re aging

  • An increasingly mobile workforce – And they all have smartphones and tablets

  • Security and/or regulatory compliance concerns – More of these rather than less seems to be the trend

  • Growth- Hopefully we’re all experiencing some of this.

2. The key things a company needs in order to operate -

  • File/data Storage – And accessible from everywhere

  • Accounts receivable/accounts payable – We all need to pay and be paid

  • Backup – this is more important than ever

  • Disaster recovery- Most folks don’t…everyone should

  • Line of business application server – This is your CRM, Salesforce, ERP system

  • Communications (email, IM, voice) – Where most of us spend most of our time

 3. The types of services available in the cloud -

  • Microsoft – Email, collaboration, file storage

  • Quickbooks – AP, billing, etc

  • Intronis –backup

  • Axcient – Disaster recovery

  • Azure – Cloud-based virtual server platform

Companies like Microsoft and QuickBooks offer cloud-based versions of software you’re likely using “on premise” today.  Often it makes sense to pick these low-hanging fruit as cloud candidates right out of the gate, but when engaging in the cloud discussion with clients, we first like to help them develop a complete view of their current environment, understand their future needs and create a cloud strategy.

describe the imageIf you’re responsible for articulating your company’s readiness for a move to the cloud, these are the areas you should be looking into.  You can do this yourself or, like many of our customers, you may look to a company that can come work with you to architect a strategy by engaging in a cloud readiness assessment.

Top Three Reasons Your Non-Profit Should Consider IT Managed Services

  
  
  
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Not-for-profits are typically very well suited to take advantage of the benefits provided through managed IT services.  This is a generalization, of course, but is based on the characteristics of mission, management, budgeting, IT best practices, and budgeting (yes I said that twice).


Free up your staff to concentrate on your organization's mission

Just like most businesses, not for profits generally use IT to advance their organization. In most organizations technology is not core to the mission, and therefore it is not typically in the organization’s best interest to invest in developing an internal technology staff. Often, keeping the network running falls to the person with the most technology experience who has to wear two hats with the technology hat taking time that keeps them from advancing the organization's core mission.

For the organization that juggles the position, as well as the one that is not going to invest in developing its own internal technology capability, the answer lies in outsourcing to someone whose core mission is to provide tech expertise…like say your local managed services provider.

Let the experts put your IT Management Processes in place and establish IT best practices

Not for profits generally do not have management teams with a great deal of experience managing technology professionals.  Nor is developing the expertise to manage these employees really core to the mission.  So, one of the best ways for a not for profit to deal with this is to put in place a contract, which they understand, which clearly outlines how the organizations IT will be managed, what the service level agreement is, and how the service provider will report back on how they are doing.  This allows the not for profit to establish an expectation for how their IT will work but removes (or at least reduces) the management team from the problem of day to day management of technology professionals.  The not for profit’s management can stay focused on their core mission- whatever it maybe. 

Turn IT costs into a planned and budgeted expense

Not for profits generally do not like financial surprises.  No one does, but due to the way many not for profits are funded, through grants and the like, budgets are tight and typically relatively fixed.   A managed services provider enables the not for profit to put in place a fixed price contract for the ongoing management of the existing IT as well as a roadmap for planned upgrades if desired.  Of course additional projects may arise and the need with the need to make changes or advancements but these can be reviewed and agreed to in advance.  The ongoing support becomes a known cost thus removing the headaches sometimes caused by unexpected and unbudgeted costs to support the network. 

A quality managed services provider enables not for profits to focus on the mission rather than developing technical capabilities, enables not for profit management teams to contract for and expect an IT service level rather than managing tech professionals, and enables not for profits to access IT support for a fixed and therefore “budget-able” price rather than be exposed to possible financial surprises.  All types of organizations benefit from these advantages but in particular we have found that these benefits have an especially strong resonance with not for profits.

Know Technology provides managed services to for profit as well as not for profit organizations in northern New England.  We are particularly proud of the work we do with not for profits because we think it is important for us to invest in our communities.  By providing a quality managed services product to the not for profits whose missions support our community we believe we are making the right investments. 

Sign up for our free trial which helps both non-profits and businesses learn about their network and how managed services can save time and money while optimizing IT operations.

 

Six Tips for Picking Your Office 365 IT Partner

  
  
  

Office 365 ServicesChoosing the right partner for an Office 365 implementation may determine the difference between the success and failure of your project. A good partner will make your process frictionless, putting your business in the best situation to move forward.

So how do you chose the right partner when exploring the option of Microsoft’s Office 365? Below are six important factors to take into consideration when making this business decision.


1. What are the partner’s qualifications?

Microsoft has certified partner programs and has recently established an Exclusive Microsoft Cloud Champions Club Program. When researching for a partner look for the experts through Microsoft's PinPoint Center. If you are already talking to someone - ask the potential partner what level of certification they are at with Microsoft. If the partner is a Cloud Accelerate Partner you are on the right track.

2. Consider the length of time the IT provider in question has been in business

When investing in your organization it’s important to select an established partner that has years of experience and has provided solutions to businesses of all shapes and sizes. Look for a partner with longevity who has seen the influence of technologies over time with their clients and the community and understands best practices.

3. Ask about Industry Experience

With several different configurations of Office 365 to choose from, a partner with experience specific to your industry will serve as your trusted advisor and provide you with valuable insight, understand your business reality and help you evaluate which capabilities make the best business case for improving your organization to help you grow. The licensing scenarios can be complicated and a good Microsoft Partner will help you sift through the options easily.

4. Ask for Relevant References

It is important that your IT provider is able to provide references from clients of similar size and industry who have leveraged the Office 365 suite to improve their business. Your partner should be able to give you examples of successful migrations and put you at ease.

5. Ask for Project Experience

Choosing a Certified Microsoft Partner with experience in Office 365 dramatically reduces the risks involved with the project and keeps it on time and within budget.

6. Ask about project resources and the qualifications of the staff who will work on the project

You will want to look for a partner that has a project management process in place that keeps you informed of the progress and works with you every step of the way. Before going forward, make a detailed inquiry regarding the project management process the partner offers as well as relevant certifications of the technical staff that will be assigned to your project

Quick Takeaways:

When selecting a partner to implement Microsoft Office 365 for your business it comes down to some reminders that make good sense for all business decisions: take a look at the provider's overall qualifications, product expertise, industry experience and references.  It is reasonable to ask for this information up front to help you determine whether or not you will be in good hands, and in the case of Office 365, you'll want to check in on the strength of their affiliation with Microsoft's Partner program and technical training. 

 

 

Four Reasons Businesses Choose Maine Managed Services

  
  
  

 

Maine Managed ServicesSo, you're a small or medium business in Maine and you're considering whether or not it makes sense to augment your IT department with a managed services provider. Whether you have a full time IT department or not, here are four primary considerations that may lead you to a Managed Services Provider:

1. You need to control costs - With the monthly contracted fee that managed services provides, you will have a budgeted and predictable IT expense over a fixed period of time (typically one year). While this is helpful for all businesses, it is particularly helpful for those who do annual budget plans and approvals.

2. Your IT complexity is increasing more quickly than your internal staffing can keep up with. The expertise of a good managed services provider supports your internal staff by enabling them with best practices learned through the management of many networks of various sizes and designed for many industries. This allows your IT staff to draw on this expertise when needed rather than developing this expensive, expertise in house.

3. You're more dependent than ever on IT - let's face it, downtime is extremely costly and most businesses suffer when their IT issues are not resolved professionally and quickly. The beauty of a good managed services provider is that they will monitor your IT and keep it running effectively to decrease or even eliminate any downtime. In the event of a problem, it is in both their and your best interest to resolve it quickly.

4. You want IT to be an asset to the operation/mission. When IT is running smoothly and effectively, it supports all the departments within a business and frees them to move their mission forward. Managed services ultimately allows you to focus on your mission, not your technology, and provides applications that just work, not take work.This makes everyone within the organization look and work smarter.

Working with a partner to help manage key aspects of your IT operations can address budget and resource needs—and help you put more focus on core business priorities. If you are a business in Northern New England look closely at KnowManager support which provides a service desk offering, remote and on-site support, external vulnerability scanning, vendor management, and annual IT planning sessions.

For an opportunity to learn more come to Know Technology's After-hours at Spread Restaurant, or sign up for a 60 day free trial of Know Technology's network monitoring.

 

 

 

6 "Exercises" for Home Office IT Security

  
  
  

iStock 000000409707XSmallHome Office Safety and Security Week passed from January 8-14, with little fanfare and fewer celebrations worthy of celebrity endorsements unlike the multitude of weight-loss resolution supporting products.

Although home office safety and security is not as sexy as other resolutions, exercising sound practices like trimming the fat from your computer resources can keep your home office fit, too.

Like a fun and effective calisthenics exercise program, it is never too late to get started, and keeping your office safe can be just as exhilarating.  

As a recent home office computer inspection revealed 34 instances of malware in under 7 seconds, not performing these exercises can pack on the pounds that drag your system down.

Exercise 1: Bend and Reach – Bend down and reach under your desk to inspect your electrical plugs and computer cords for your computer and peripheral equipment. Ensure you are not at risk of overloading circuits or daisy-chaining extension cords that may overheat. Ensure your cords are not being pinched by furniture and that your cords are not set to where they may cause you to trip. 

Exercise 2: Jumping Jacks – Inspect your area for network cables that may be strung in a fashion that may cause you or a client to trip. If you have wiring or cabling that is dangerous, unsightly or inconvenient, consider contacting one of the professionals at Know Technology to install a secure wireless solution or add cabling or a wireless network to your office.

Exercise 3: Grip Exercise – Get a grip on the wireless network if you are using one at your home office. This is a two-count exercise:

  1.  Ensure that the factory default logins and passwords have been changed to something not easily guessable.

  2. If you are not using the wireless features of your wireless capable router, disable the wireless functionality.

Exercise 4: Surges – An exercise where less is more.  Ensure you have surge suppression installed to protect your equipment. You may also consider installing an uninterrupted power supply to further protect your equipment and work from experiencing sudden power outages or brown-outs.

Exercise 5: Push-ups, sit-ups or chin-ups and other “Ups” exercises: Keeping your operating system and anti-virus packages up-to-date is critical and much easier than either of the other “ups” exercises. Performing frequent updates helps prevent malicious software from exercising known vulnerabilities.  

Exercise 6: Strengthening the Core:  Check your computer for applications that you do not use or unnecessary programs that start up automatically. These ‘extra’ applications may have vulnerabilities or take up processing cycles that unnecessarily slow your computer down or take precious memory resources. Eliminating the fat (the apps that you don’t need) from your PC can enable it to focus its energy on the applications important to you.

 

 

 

 

 

IT Risk Management Protects Against Social Engineering

  
  
  

describe the imageSocial Engineering- using a little information to pose as someone else to get more information for fraudulent financial gain... protect your self with IT Risk Management

“Grand-mom, I am in trouble, and I need your help.” These were the first words heard by a local Camden septuagenarian resident when she picked up the phone. Convinced that this was her grandson who may be in need of assistance, she continued to talk with the fraudster as if it was her grandson. In this particular instance, the caller ultimately hung up when she expressed her actual plans to meet with him later that day – but he had her duped.

He had her duped like the other local resident who received a similar call about a grandson who needed bail money quickly to purportedly get out of jail in Canada. So, the willing grandfather sent the $7,500 by Western Union to the number the caller described. The money went to Mexico. You have guessed it, no grandson was in jail, certainly not in Canada, and he did not need to send the bail money to Mexico to get him out of jail in Canada – but he did. That man is now out $7,500. The caller played on the elderly, his emotions, and his desire to help.

This is a form of Social Engineering- using a little information to pose as someone else to get more information for fraudulent financial gain. Similar to phishing or pharming on a computer application with a fake website – phone scamming is an old trick in the book, but one we should not forget about – at our businesses or at home.

So, when my father showed up at my workplace and asked me, “are the kids alright, is there something they need?” he got a perplexed look and together we did a quick check of the clan. “Your mother just got this call . . . “and he wondered what to do.

He was a little surprised to hear that fraudsters have the ability to target, with accuracy, their potential victims, and I was surprised at his naïveté – but that is why I decided to share this personal story. 

We talked about how people have the ability to determine the demographics (age, sex, location, and potential affluence by geography and phone numbers) just by surfing the web. Social Engineers use these pieces of information to begin making assumptive calls based upon the readily available demographics. In this case, the elderly were clearly being targeted; and they guessed right, my mother has grandchildren.

So if you receive an unexpected call requesting money to help a family member in need, know to:

  • Be aware of the scams

    • Investment scams – offers too good to be true usually are
    • Recent lottery winnings – if you did not buy a lottery ticket, you probably didn’t win
    • Requests of cash to resolve a family emergency – double check
    • Fraudsters posing as financial institutions asking your for your account information – your financial institution will never call you to ask for your information
  • Remember that people may be intentionally targeting you to ask for money over the phone

  • Don’t be overcome by emotions that may overwhelm your reason

    • “I won 5 million dollars in the Kazakhstan lottery, I just need to send $5,000 to pay the taxes. . . .!”
    • “I can get a guaranteed 30% on this investment for widgets – just send $10,000. . . “
    • “Oh no, how terrible? I can send you the money right away. . . .”
  • Get as much information from the caller as possible

    • Use caller ID to determine where the caller is calling from. Consider if it is one of your family member’s numbers.
    • If you don’t have caller ID, try dialing *69 to get the number of the caller
    • Try calling the number back to see the person’s response
  • Confirm with your relatives / loved ones that they are actually in need of assistance – or not

  • Upon identification of a fraud instance, report the occurrence to your local law enforcement

  • If you have elderly parents who may be susceptible to such a scan, please, share this information with them

  • Know Technology’s Information Risk Management division is available to assist people who have experienced a crisis or to provide social engineering prevention and information security awareness education to your employees.

And to that group of kids from Hawaii who called me a few months back; no, I now admit that I am not actually the Christopher Nolan who directed the Inception movie, but since you called me after midnight, forgive me for playing along.

 

 

Ten IT Security Tips for Peace of Mind During the Holiday Season

  
  
  

describe the imageThe holiday season is the busiest time of year for consumer purchases and receiving messages from friends and family. The increase in purchases and communications can lead to an increased risk of being a victim to fraud activity. These ten simple IT Security precautions will  help you say “bah-humbug” to those who are after your personal and financial information during the holiday season.

  1. When shopping online only provide your confidential information to secure sites – as identified by starting with “https” or by viewing the padlock icon in the URL.
  2. Consider using a credit card for online purchases as compared with a debit card. Credit cards typically carry limitations of liability (if noted within a reasonable period of time) compared with debit cards where inappropriate or unauthorized use may drain your personal checking account. Your credit card may also offer buyer protection for goods not delivered as compared with your debit card provider.
  3. When shopping online, use a gift card or one-time use card that is limited in its value to near or at the amount of the purchase.
  4. Be on the lookout for fake (phishing) expeditions where mock websites are pretending to be your financial institution and requesting your personal banking information.
  5. When you are using your debit or credit card at the mall or other crowded businesses, be careful of “shoulder surfers” who may be attempting to view your PIN as you type it into the reader.
  6. Maintain the anti-virus and anti-adware applications on your personal PC.
  7. Be suspicious of on screen advertisements that direct you away from the site and business that you were intending to purchase from. When in doubt, call the website contact number listed to help ensure you are doing business with a reputable company.
  8. Be wary of emails that you are not expecting – even from your friends, colleagues, and family members that contain a holiday greeting. It is common for fraudsters to use address books of email accounts to resend messages to those in the address book, and these messages typically carry malware that is intended to do harm to your computer or glean personal information.
  9. Delete “Chain” emails or greeting card emails which frequently carry malware that may place files on your computer unbeknownst to you that can damage your computer or send files or information to thieves. Do not resend chain emails - even special holiday message emails to your friends, colleagues, or family members.
  10. Do not open attachments from emails that you are not expecting – even if it says “Ho-Ho-Ho” or another holiday greeting in the subject line.
During the holiday season share good holiday cheer with your friends, colleagues and family members; limit your sharing with the Grinches who are looking for your valuable information. It is better to give than to receive except when considering your personal and financial information.

IT Assessments – The Prescription to End Fire Drills

  
  
  

iStock 000007145193XSmall[1]I am enlightened on a day to day basis when working with organizations of various types and sizes when I discover how they view technology within their organization. Either technology is the necessary evil, or technology is the enabler that drives the organization forward. While there could be many positions between these ends of the spectrum, I find that almost every employee presents their organization on one end or the other. Wherever an organization falls, the prescription is the same - an IT assessment will provide relief.

Let’s start by examining organizations in the “necessary evil camp”. Providing solutions for these organizations is incredibly difficult, particularly when you consider how simple the goal appears. Here are a few different ways these organizations might explain their needs:

  • “Keep the systems we must utilize running at the absolute minimum cost possible.”
  • “Just make it work … have I told you that your rates are too high?”
  • “Every time we have something big going on it breaks – how much is it going to cost this time?”

This environment presents a lose – lose situation. The organization, its employees, and the people trying to make IT work are never going to get ahead in this environment. Their perception of saving money is expensive in the long run. Organizations in this situation are always living a fire drill, and are seen by employees as operating a high drama, high stress place to work.
At the other end of the spectrum, you have organizations that take every opportunity to utilize technology solutions to drive their business forward. Some statements that exemplify organizations operating in an ideal technology-enabling environment are:

  • “My foreman changed the schedule for three crews in the field today from his smartphone.”
  • “Do you know we are saving 25% on our power bill following the virtualization project?”
  • “It looks like our sales people are engaging with twice as many accounts since we provided their new systems.”

These cases seem like pie in the sky situations -they describe the benefits that business owners and executives can only dream of. In various IT maturity assessments these companies would be approaching the top category, which I often refer to as nirvana. Remember that you can never actually get to nirvana.

The reality is that very few companies are really at either end of the spectrum even though their employees may think so... So where is the disconnect? Rather than think of ourselves as average, we think of our environment as being either terrible or awesome. Ironically, from a business owner/executive position, I would rather be average and think I was terrible than think I was awesome and find out I am just average.

Generally, if you think you’re awesome and find out you are just average, it is usually because something really bad just happened. For instance:

  • You back up every day but there was just a fire and there was no offsite data backup.
  • One employee knows the entire system and it is running great, but it is not documented anywhere and that employee just experienced a major health issue.
  • Your business is subject to some regulatory or compliance requirements and you learned this morning from the authorities that your organization has been compromised.

Realistically there is no way to alleviate all threats that may occur.  Every company is somewhere on the continuum between fire drill and nirvana and the best way to move forward is to regularly assess your organization’s situation. Interestingly, fire drill organizations typically never assess their IT, while many nirvana organizations may have done some sort of assessment in the past but haven’t done so with any regularity.

For all organizations I prescribe an IT assessment treatment with three components:
1. It is performed separate from the normal course of business;
2. It follows a specific assessment structure regardless of being performed by internal or external resources;
3. it is performed on a recurring basis, preferably every 12 to 18 months. 

From this assessment regimen, organizations experience the following benefits:

  • A typical fire drill organization starts to spend its IT budget more wisely.
  • A nirvana organization identifies gotchas that nobody was thinking about.
  • Reliability of systems improves.
  • IT budgets become more predictable.
  • Employee satisfaction improves
In the end it doesn’t really matter how your organization and its employees view you falling on the spectrum.  Whether your organization currently sees technology as a necessary evil or your company is trying to use technology to enable its way to nirvana, or sits somewhere in between;, a regular technology assessment is the right prescription.

Make Your IT Infrastructure as Solid as Your Home’s

  
  
  

How often do you think about your IT infrastructure – the foundation of your organization? Based on my day to day experience with IT departments, not enough thought, care, and consideration goes into the IT infrastructure of most organizations.

describe the imageI regularly work with organizational management to help them think of their IT infrastructure as they would the infrastructure that goes into building a new home. This metaphor helps us understand many key areas that are core to building either a solid home or, in our case, a sound IT infrastructure.

1. First we look at the foundation

Do you build your house on mud or on loose rocks stacked together? No – you excavate down to bedrock and poor cement footings and walls to provide a solid base for the house. During a network assessment we often find core network equipment sitting on the floor covered with dust, servers laying on their side under a desk (serving as a footrest) and switches propped up against a wall (held in position by one really tight network cable) or hiding behind a filing cabinet that hasn’t moved in years. The infrastructure of your network needs to have a solid foundation that starts with appropriate furniture, racks, and mounting systems. Ideally, all of your network infrastructure will be located in a designated space and mounted in a rack solution. If a rack solution is not possible, utilize some purpose-built shelving or desks for computer and network systems. As a compromise, if network infrastructure cannot be mounted to racks or furniture: utilize wall mounts to securely affix switches, etc… to the wall.

2. Next, we consider the electrical elements

Do you plug your stove, refrigerator, washer, dryer, etc… all into one outlet using power strips to provide enough outlets? Of course not – each appliance has an appropriate outlet rated for the power required with no extension cords or power strips utilized. In greater than 50% of the server rooms/closets we enter, we find overloaded electrical outlets, dead UPS units that are often connected to each other  along with cheap power strips and extension cords. Interestingly, electrical is a key area where we often find significant cost savings by properly building out electrical capacity and distribution for the equipment. Investments made in providing appropriate 15, 20 or 30 amp circuits; utilizing 208V power vs 110; and implementing proper UPS and power distribution equipment , will improve the stability of your computing environment and save you both money and headaches over the long haul

3. Following this, we must look at the “plumbing”

Do you have 1/4” pipes distributing water throughout your home with no pressure tank or suitable hot water solution? I don’t think so – having hot and cold water everywhere when you want it is a creature comfort that we all take for granted. The Ethernet cabling connecting all of your network equipment together is the plumbing of your IT organization. Nevertheless, we run across network cabling on the floor, cables stretched to their max, multiple switches daisy chained together to provide a 2nd Ethernet connection for the office down the hall on the left, and the cheapest wireless access points used to provide network access for the managers or executives that want to use their laptop or iPad wirelessly. The biggest performance impediment for any network is inferior plumbing. Many organizations start looking at servers or workstations when they are experiencing performance issues with their systems when instead they should invest in structured cabling, quality switches and access points, along with people experienced in building scalable Ethernet networks.

4. Following this, we identify labeling and documentation issues

Common across all aspects of an IT infrastructure is the need to have great documentation and labeling. When you open the breaker panel in your house, ideally you see every breaker properly labeled. If you have been in your house for a while and performed any electrical work, it is likely that when you open your breaker panel  you see some breakers clearly labeled and others with hard to read or no labels at all. This is probably similar to your IT infrastructure – some items are documented, diagrammed and labeled perfectly and other items have nothing at all. It is essential to get rigorous about demanding great documentation and labeling of every item in your IT infrastructure.

Foundations, Electrical, Plumbing and Documentation are only four of the several components to understand when building a great house or a great IT infrastructure for your organization. Other key areas for consideration include HVAC, Security, Servers and Storage. Look for future discussions about these in the coming weeks.

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